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457 visa Tough New Laws to Stop “modern slavery”

The Minister for Immigration, is stated as saying “It is not acceptable for anyone to make a personal gain from selling visa sponsorship and it is not acceptable for a foreign worker to become an Australian permanent resident or be granted a work visa for Australia by paying an employer for their visa”. These amendments have been met with support from Parliament, though it has been requested that these rules be extended to include working holiday visas and student visas. It has also been asked that immigrants who have come to Australia as a result of human trafficking or slavery be exempt from penalties.

The new legislation has been passed preventing employers from charging would-be employees for sponsorship on the subclass 457 visa Temporary Work (Skilled) visa. It is also illegal for anyone to pay a monetary fee in exchange for a work visa. As noted by Chandler  These new laws are designed to prevent exploitation of overseas workers and to protect the Australian labour market. This type of behaviour undermines Australian workplace law and reduces potential wage rises for local workers. Migrants on temporary work visas often come from low-wage countries and those who have paid their way into the country are at greater risk of being taken advantage of by their sponsor. Unfortunately, exploitation of migrant workers is commonplace, likely due to a general flaw in immigration and employment regulations. New laws aim to protect migrant workers from dishonest employers who take advantage of their vulnerable situation.

It is prohibited to ask for, receive, offer or provide payment or other benefits in exchange for a visa sponsorship. Those found to be exploiting this new law could face jail time or be subjected to paying large fines. Fines can reach in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (maximum of $324, 000) and jail time can be up to two years in addition to visa cancellations for those who choose to engage in this unlawful behaviour.

Exploitation of foreign workers is a form of modern slavery that risks jeopardising Australia’s reputation as a fair country full of opportunities for those who come from abroad. It is anticipated that this new legislation will strengthen the integrity of Australia’s visa application process and prevent employers and employees from engaging in such dishonest behaviour.

Changes to legislation have likely been sparked by several incidents in which ‘payment for visas’ was identified. The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection regularly look into reports of exploitation and mistreatment of visa holders; in recent months, several investigations have also been made into alleged corrupt payments to sponsors from foreign workers in exchange for work visas. Unfortunately the Department of Immigration and Border Protection are not always able to take direct action and impose penalties on rule-breakers, due to gaps in the existing legislative framework.

These stricter laws are also likely to have come off the back of a recent Senate inquiry into allegations that two thirds of the Franchisee stores 7 11 have committed wage fraud and blatantly underpaid migrant staff. This behaviour is in direct breach of the Migration Act (1958) which states an employer must provide a visa holder with equivalent pay to that of any Australian employee who has the same occupation as you in your workplace.

If you or anyone you know – is applying for a Sponsorship, Nomination or 457 visa or if you have had a 457 visa refused for FRAUD or any other reason please speak to one of the lawyers at our office for thorough advice on your options.

Call 03 9614 0218 or email to arrange a free initial 30 Minute consultation at our Melbourne office.

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Note: this update, or any previous updates on this page, do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Please call our office to seek professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content on this page